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Making Manners Matter

Abu Ibrahim

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Remember when you were at the masjid as a seven-year-old kid and couldn’t contain your excitement, so you would run around in the masjid so innocently?  I remember being a child in the masjid and causing so much drama for my parents to the point where they would waver back and forth between whether to stay for taraweeh during Ramadan or just leave because I was causing so much of a headache.  Now remember when you were that child and some big, bearded, elderly uncle or hijab-wearing auntie came up to you and told you to stop, or maybe he/she yelled at your parents for not having proper control of you?  Now recall that feeling you got about that uncle or auntie?  Weren’t you put off by them?  Didn’t you start to harbor some resentment towards them, and possibly towards “religious” people, for being so stern with you and your parents?

Let’s fast-forward to today where we are that adult and we see children running around in our masjids.  Have we become that “uncle” or “auntie” who berates those children running rampant throughout the masjid?  Now, I’m not going to get into the merits of whether or not it’s a good idea to have children  running around in the masjid or whether it’s preferred (or not preferred) to let our children rule the masjid.  What I do want to discuss is the importance of good manners and how we come across to others.

Though we may have sincere and righteous intentions, many of us have misplaced our beautiful manners.  Absolutely, it is very important to advise our fellow brothers and sisters, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believer.  After all, we advise each other because we love each and want the best for one another.  We don’t or at least shouldn’t be advising each other to show off our knowledge or to berate one another.  In reality, we should be thankful that we are in the situation to advise someone.  We should be humbled that Allah (SWT) has blessed us to be in the position of giving advice to someone.  We should be thankful that Allah (SWT) is using us as a tool for the guidance of another human being.  After all, wasn’t there a time in our lives where someone who was more “religious” than us advised us in a positive manner, which led to us coming closer to this beautiful religion?  Allah (SWT) used that person to guide you and, now perhaps you are being used to guide another.

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However, the way or manner in which we convey our message to others can be just as, if not more, important as the actual words we use for the advice we give.  As a brother, I know it is hard to receive advice and it’s not always appreciated.  Personally, I find it easier to accept advice given to me if I find the person advising me showing earnest concern and sincerity.  It’s true that when we honestly advise someone, our sincerity and concern will show in how we say it.  There’s a difference between empathy and sympathy.  Sympathy entails showing compassion, while empathy entails putting yourself in another person’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective.  So if we are to advise our fellow brother and sister, we should strive to exhibit empathy and show our concern to that person.  We should want the best for them and their families.

Good manners is absolutely the best way to advise anyone, whether it’s to a Muslim or a non-Muslim.  Some of our pious predecessors used to study manners twice as long as they would study knowledge.  Ask yourself, “How much time have I personally devoted to purifying my character?”  Indeed, our good manners are sometimes the reason for people accepting Islam.  Indonesia, the largest Muslim country on earth, accepted Islam through the manners and character of the Muslim traders who journeyed there.  When you hear about the manners of the Sahaba [companions of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.)], it truly is humbling to see how amazing their character was.  They wouldn’t dare raise their voice in front of the Prophet (S.A.W.).  Now, our situation is radically different.  Some converts even confess that if they had met Muslims in their communities before they became Muslim, they may have never accepted Islam!  How sad is the state of our manners now?!

The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) himself had the absolute best of manners.  It has been said that even if the poorest person would come to speak to him (S.A.W.), he (S.A.W.) would face them with his body, making them feel important.  Haven’t we heard about how the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) interacted with the man who came and urinated in the masjid?  If we truly want to emulate the actions of our Prophet (S.A.W.) and implement his Sunnah, shouldn’t we make an extra effort when it comes to having good manners and a purified character?

Often times, it’s the wrath of the bearded brothers or hijab-wearing sisters that people fear, whether it’s in the masjid or the community (see the opening paragraph).  Isn’t it time to change that?  Yes, we should advise one another and implement enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.  However, let’s make sure we do it in a beneficial way, in’sha’Allah!  Being “religious” doesn’t mean being harsh, rather being “religious” means striving to have a beautiful heart.  It means one is working towards having the best of manners and the best character.  A reminder to myself first and foremost, in’sha’Allah, I hope and pray that we can all have a beautiful character.

May Allah (SWT) allow us all to have the best of manners, Ameen!

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yasmin

    February 24, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Jazakallah khair for this great and much neded post!

  2. Avatar

    Alkalaam

    February 25, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    Jazak Allhu Khair ya Abu Ibrahim, May Allah accept your good deeds. Ameen

  3. Avatar

    Khadija L.

    February 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Masha Allɑ̤̥̈̊h, such a refreshing & well-mannered article. May Allaah reward your humility.

  4. Avatar

    Wali Allah

    February 28, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    Ibn Rajab may Allah have mercy upon him wrote, “When the righteous predecessors intended to give Naseehah to someone, they admonished him privately, to the point that some of them said, ‘The one who exhorts his brother between him and himself, then it is Naseehah. The one who exhorts him in front of people, then it is merely scolding!'”
    Mashallah such a nice post may Allah (swt) guide us to to have best manners

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Gender Relations

Loving Muslim Marriage Episode 10#: Do Angels Curse the Wife Who Refuses Sex?

Guests

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It is often heard that the Prophet said that if a man calls his wife to bed and she refuses him, that the angels will curse her until the morning. There are a lot of ways that people understand this, but what is the right way of understanding this Hadith?

Join us with Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jandga to talk about this commonly mistranslated, misunderstood narration.

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Torment And Tears: The Emotional Experience of Tawbah

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

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Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?

That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah… it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.

It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them… but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a ‘big deal’ – perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn’t think was all that serious.

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And yet… and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.

It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.

It is also a very necessary one.

The Act of Tawbah

Tawbah – seeking forgiveness from Allah – is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it is also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple – “Just say astaghfirAllah and don’t do it again.”

In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.

The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin – whether seemingly small or severe – and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn’t even register to us how we could be affecting the person we’ve spoken to.

As RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once told A’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The second step is to feel true remorse. It’s not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must feel guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.

Tawbah is to feel that sucker-punch of humiliation and guilt as we recall our sins: not just the mildly awkward ones, like a petty fib or mild infraction, but the genuinely terrible parts of ourselves… ugly lies, vicious jealousy, violations against others’ rights, abuse.

Some of us may be actual criminals – others of us may seem presentable on the outside, even religious, maybe even spiritual… and yet have violated others in terrible ways. Abuse comes in so many forms, and some of us are perpetrators, not just victims.

Facing that reality can be a gruesome process. 

It is a necessary process. Token words, glib recitation of spiritual formulae, those do not constitute tawbah in its entirety. Rather, it is a matter of owning up to our violations, experiencing genuine emotion over them – true humiliation, true regret – and striving not to be that person ever again. 

Much as we hate to admit it, we have our own fair share of red flags that we create and wave, even before we get into the nasty business of committing the worst of our sins. Tawbah isn’t just feeling bad for those Big Sins – it’s to recognize what led us to them to begin with.

It requires us to acknowledge our own flaws of character, of the ease with which we fall into certain behaviours, the way we justify the pursuit of our desires, the blindness we have to the worst parts of ourselves. Tawbah is to sit down and face all of it – and then to beg Allah, over and over, not just to forgive us and erase those specific actions, but to change us for the better. 

This experience is so much more powerful than a mere “I’m sorry,” or “omg, that was awful”; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, please forgive you – because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.

Surah Araf Verse 23

{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar’hamnaa, lanakunanna mina’l Khaasireen!}

{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur’an 7:23)

This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.

Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.

The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah’s help to uphold it – because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to correct our transgression against others’ rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual’s forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased ‘ebaadah.

But it doesn’t end there. And it never will.

Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.

Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn’t commit mistakes and errors every day?

All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also: {Allahumma ij’alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} – O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

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Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

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Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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